This year’s NBA free agency period started with a slow drip of deals before turning into a steady stream of signings from late Friday night into Saturday afternoon.
Several players still haven’t reached agreements with teams, but seven of Sporting News’ top 10 free agents are already off the market. Anthony Davis and Brandon Ingram (Nos. 1 and 2 on that list) are expected to re-sign with the Lakers and Pelicans, respectively, and a few other impactful players are deep in negotiations.
A surprise signing or trade could still pop up because, well, that’s how the NBA offseason works. But for now, let’s roll through the early winners and losers from free agency based on what we know so far.
NBA free agency winners
Los Angeles Lakers
After officially acquiring Dennis Schroder on Wednesday, the Lakers could have opted to run it back with most of the roster that brought them a championship.
Instead, they stunned NBA Twitter (and Patrick Beverley) by signing Montrezl Harrell, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, to a two-year, $19 million contract. He should be able to develop off-the-bench chemistry with Schroder similar to what he had with Lou Williams. Los Angeles also added Wesley Matthews on a one-year, $3.6 million deal, giving the Lakers a solid replacement for Danny Green.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka didn’t just bolster the depth around Davis and LeBron James, he also took key contributors away from other contenders. You can’t ask for much more if you’re a Lakers fan.
The Lakers’ NBA Finals opponent has also enjoyed a strong offseason.
Goran Dragic broke the news of his own signing to open free agency (two years, $37.4 million), and the Heat followed that up by retaining Meyers Leonard (two years, nearly $20 million). They brought in Moe Harkless on a cheap one-year, $3.6 million deal, which should soften the blow of losing Jae Crowder to the Suns.
Here’s the big thing, though: All of these contracts are structured to allow Miami to have plenty of cap room next summer. That’s important in case a certain Greek superstar wants to explore his options. (It’s Giannis Antetokounmpo. We’re talking about Giannis.)
Hayward raised some eyebrows when he passed on a $34.2 million player option with the Celtics. Hey, good call!
Four years, $120 million. That’s what Hayward got from the Hornets. Oh, and that is a fully guaranteed deal, according to The Athletic’s David Aldridge.
An all-time securing of the baggery.
Toronto Raptors and Fred VanVleet
Speaking of cashing out, how about VanVleet going from undrafted to an $85 million contract?
This is a win-win situation for the Raptors and their 26-year-old guard, who is signed through at least 2022-23 (player option for 2023-24). VanVleet is better served being a contributor on a winning team than the No. 1 option on a lottery team like the Knicks, and he still got his payday. Toronto keeps a beloved player and maintains flexibility moving forward.
I’m told VanVleet’s 4yr/$85 deal (player option in yr 4) starts at $21.25 and then decreases by 8% in yr 2 (2021/22) before ramping up again. The drop going into summer of 2021 helps preserve Raptors cap space.
— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) November 21, 2020
Should you take your kids out to the driveway and force them to do shooting drills right now? Here’s your answer:
- Davis Bertans: Five years, $80 million
- Joe Harris: Four years, $75 million
- Danilo Gallinari: Three years, $61.5 million
Nothing wrong with being a specialist.
NBA free agency losers
Los Angeles Clippers
Harrell switching LA allegiances from the Clippers to the Lakers grabbed headlines, but the bigger loss might be JaMychal Green, who jumped to the Nuggets. While Green is never going to be an All-Star, his combination of size and shooting will be difficult to replace.
The Clippers re-signed Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson, so free agency hasn’t been a total strikeout. Still, they appear to be worse off than last season (for the moment, at least), and their main rival may have improved.
What . . . what are we trying to do here?
Forwards and centers the Pistons signed this offseason:
– Jahlil Okafor (C)
– Mason Plumlee (C)
– Dewayne Dedmon (C)
– Tony Bradley (C)
– Jerami Grant (F)
– Josh Jackson (F)
– Isaiah Stewart (F)
They already have Blake Griffin. pic.twitter.com/1Z2JL1udZS
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 21, 2020
Pistons general manager Troy Weaver has certainly been busy snagging every big man in sight, but it’s unclear if all of these pieces are part of some grand vision. The most inexplicable aspect of these transactions is the fact that Detroit brought these guys in and chose to let Christian Wood go. The 25-year-old showed real promise toward the end of the 2019-20 season. Now he’s heading to Houston.
Good luck to Dwane Casey figuring out his rotation.
The NBA Twitter reaction to Hayward’s contract could largely be summed up as, “Excuse me? He got WHAT?”
Look, Hayward isn’t a bad player. Maybe he can be something closer to the Jazz version of himself with an expanded role in Charlotte.
It’s moreso the terms of the contract that should sound alarms. The Hornets will be paying Hayward a high price as he ages out of his prime, and the 30-year-old comes with a rough injury history. Additionally, the Hornets are on the hook for Nic Batum’s salary over the next three seasons because they elected to waive and stretch him in order to create the cap room necessary to sign Hayward.
In a sense, if the Hornets are waiving and stretching Nic Batum, they are spending an average of $39M a year for the next three years for Hayward.
Hayward = $30M
Batum = $9M in dead money
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) November 21, 2020
If the goal is to do whatever it takes to make the playoffs, uh, OK then. But this just feels like skipping steps in a rebuild.
Always double-check before you tweet.
Howard believed he had secured a one-year, $3 million deal to return to the Lakers, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. It turns out management had only discussed a “deal concept,” not an official offer, forcing Howard to delete his social media post.
Not long after the miscommunication, Howard accepted a one-year, $2.6 million contract from the 76ers. This was the most Dwight way to leave LA.